Chris Kreider scored two goals and the New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 6-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series on Monday night in Raleigh, N.C.
Adam Fox and Andrew Copp each had a goal and an assist, Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil also scored, and Igor Shesterkin made 37 saves for the Rangers, who were down 2-0 and 3-2 in the best-of-seven series before rallying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2015.
“We’re a young group, we have a lot of faith in each other in there,” Fox said. “When our backs are against the wall, it brings out the best in us.”
The Rangers, who are 5-0 in elimination games this postseason, will host the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay will have eight days off before returning to the ice.
“(The Lightning) getting a little rest is good for their guys, but we’re in hockey mode, we’re in playoff mode right now,” Fox said. “We want to keep the momentum we have rolling, so it could be good for us, but obviously a good test as well.”
The Hurricanes came in 7-0 at home this postseason and had posted six straight Game 7 victories in their history, but they weren’t able to solve Shesterkin, who held them to two goals or fewer in six of the seven games.
Vincent Trocheck and Max Domi scored and Antti Raanta made 16 saves for Carolina before leaving with a lower-body injury late in the second period. Pyotr Kochetkov replaced him and made nine saves in his seventh NHL appearance.
Fox and Kreider each scored power-play goals in the first period and Shesterkin made 16 saves to help the Rangers to a 2-0 lead.
Fox scored with a wrist shot from the inside edge of the right circle with two seconds left on the first man-advantage for a 1-0 lead at 3:40.
Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba followed with a big hit on Carolina rookie center Seth Jarvis, knocking him out of the game with an upper-body injury.
Carolina forward Sebastian Aho said of Jarvis, “It sucks to see a guy go down and I really hope he’s OK. He’s a great player and he’s been big-time for us all year.”
The Hurricanes were called for too many men while Jarvis was crawling off the ice, and Kreider scored on the ensuing power play with a redirection off a shot from Mika Zibanejad, who had three assists.
“All that comes from guys on the perimeter moving the puck well, coming up with loose pucks,” said Kreider, who had 52 goals during the regular season. “You’ve got to respect Mika’s shot there. He’s scored quite a few from that spot, so the guy sells out a little bit trying to get the block and he just finds me backdoor.”
Raanta, who became Carolina’s primary goalie after Frederik Andersen sustained a lower-body injury late in the regular season, was helped off the ice after outstretching his right leg in a save attempt at 15:37 of the second period.
Kochetkov entered the game and Strome scored 42 seconds later to stretch the lead to 3-0.
Kreider scored on a breakaway at 3:59 of the third to make it 4-0 and give him 15 goals in elimination games, one shy of the NHL record held by Mark Messier.
Trocheck scored for Carolina at 8:11 on a power play to cut the gap to 4-1, but Chytil answered 40 seconds later.
Domi made it 5-2 with 3:47 left, but Copp came back with an empty-net goal with 2:52 remaining for a 6-2 lead.
“We had our chance tonight and didn’t use it,” Aho said. “It really doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it’s the present moment, and obviously we couldn’t win a hockey game tonight.”
–Field Level Media